John Hiett on Neighbourhood Plans

It is the most fundamental and least heralded change in local government since the Magna Carta!  The government wants local communities to decide their own futures.   All over the country hundreds of groups are preparing or have prepared their Neighbourhood Plans.

The idea is simple, but the execution is excruciating.   Every community is encouraged to prepare a Plan for the Future.   In Titchfield, a committee appointed by invitation of the Titchfield Village Trust asked residents what concerned them – traffic and housing topped the list. They also asked what residents would like to do about it.    There followed two and a half years of consultation in myriad forms, until a draft Plan had been prepared under the strictest guidelines.   A referendum will follow of the whole village, and hey presto, the next 20 years are set in stone.

The Final Plan will have full legal authority.   Planning inspectors quail before it.

It hasn’t been easy.   Government guidelines and local authority plans change at the drop of a hat.   It’s not a job for the faint-hearted.   The Forum (approved by Fareham Borough Council in March 2017) of 25 residents have worked assiduously, and the work is in its final stages.

The Neighbourhood Plan for Titchfield is now in the public consultation stage.   Residents have until September 10 to put their views.   After that, the revised plan goes to an inspector and then comes the referendum.   A simple majority will decide the outcome.

Titchfield (and no doubt many other communities) has considerations which are peculiar to itself.   We are a medieval village with narrow streets and no front gardens.   Busses trundle four times every hour close to ancient houses with medieval foundations.   Houses are too expensive for young people to buy.   Infilling has taken up almost all the available space for new housing, and the villagers are anxious to preserve the remaining green spaces – the allotments, the bowling club and the village green for example.

Yet there is a requirement by the government for Titchfield to provide around 180 dwellings in the neighbourhood Plan area by 2036.   So, what will happen?   The Plan will decide.

John Hiett

7 thoughts on “John Hiett on Neighbourhood Plans

  1. Peter Wheal Post author

    Nick, you are correct to point out the error in JH’s comment. I should have spotted it before approving it.
    The housing figures are derived from the Housing Needs Assessment prepared by AECOM.
    As to your other points I will leave those for others to deal with.

  2. Nick Girdler

    I would like to point out an inaccuracy in John Hiett’s comments: there is NO “requirement by the government for Titchfield to provide 180 dwellings in the neighbourhood Plan area by 2036” This is a requirement the neighbourhood plan says we need (Para 1.2, Para 9.3)
    What the government do is indicate the required number of dwellings for the local authority, Fareham Borough Council, it is they who decide where the development should go within the borough. At the moment they say NO development will take place, outlined in their draft local development plan (Para 9.6) because the village comes within the Meon Valley Strategic Gap (Para 5.3)
    So what will happen ? If the FBC Local Plan is adopted no development other than very small windfall building will take place. If the Neighbourhood Plan is adopted 180 dwellings (10 a year between 2018 and 2036) will be built, but they don’t identify any sites (Para 9.6) ; so much for the plan deciding !
    Nick Girdler
    Chair Titchfield Village Trust

  3. ann

    The Boundary Plan area was approved by the residents before it was submitted to Fareham Borough Council. It was then approved by Fareham Borough Council in March 2017. Details of the Plan area are given on page 15 of the Neighbourhood Plan and the rationale for the Plan is in Appendix 13.

  4. Phil Burner

    In reply to Paul’s post…

    Although a member of TVT, I’m voicing my own views here.

    My main concerns are that the ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ cannot demand less housing than Fareham’s ‘Local Plan’.
    So there is no advantage in signing up to it. We are bound by Fareham’s Local Plan.

    The NP will, as mentioned by Forum members at the recent TVT meeting , “Run alongside Fareham’s Local Plan” This phrase means little, in truth the Local plan will take precedent. So in future Fareham may be forced by national government to increase the housing stock and then the NP will have to ‘bend the knee’ and amend their figures.
    The advantage of not adopting the NP is that TVT can continue (As it has done for the last 50 years) to independently campaign on a whole range of issues of concern. The key word here is – independently.

    Claims that the NP will enable money to be levied on developers and spent locally on infrastructure improvements is spurious. It happens already and would continue without a NP. The TVT has been very successful in sourcing money from developers in the past for use on local projects.

    On a different topic, please don’t allow the issue of ‘provision for social housing’ to cloud your views. Developers only need to provide social or affordable housing to sites of over 10 houses. Even then they can opt to pay a premium to wave the restriction.
    Also the criteria for affordable housing is 10 percent less of the market price – so, a developer builds 11 houses on a site and has to sell one at this lower price, the other houses cost £800,000 and the ‘affordable house’ is sold for £720,000 for example. Not really addressing the issue, just a sop to the regulations.

    I appreciate that not adopting the NP looks a negative option but my personal view is, in short, ‘If its not broke, don’t fix it'”

  5. Peter Swan

    Not only is the boundary a matter on contention, also there is the concern as to whom will be entitled to vote in the proposed referendum. Does one have to be a property owner? Does one become eligible if resident on the day of the vote? What about lodgers, tenants, transients, travellers, etc?
    How old should the voter be? Some very elderly will not benefit from the decision come what may; whilst some 12 year olds will be considerably affected? What are the age criteria for the electorate There are many other questions, conundrums and explanations needed.

  6. Paul Robinson

    I have been following the interaction and dialogue on this website with intrigue, but must declare an interest in that I have been intimately involved with the development of some of the housing and traffic elements of the Neighbourhood Plan.

    I fear that we are in danger of losing sight of the fact that both the TVT and Neighbourhood Forum share closely aligned visions regarding some of the fundamental elements that will shape the future of our precious village. But the fact of the matter is that the Forum – like it or loathe it – has the underpinning benefit of national legislation. It may be that someone in the TVT has a different view, in which case please do share that with us so that we can compare and contrast that with guidance embedded in the hyperlinks that Peter Wheal shared previously.

    I acknowledge that rules around referenda are a tad tricky (to say the least) but it would be wrong to assume that there has been a dilatory approach to our media campaign. There has been a mail drop to every house in the village indicating the dates of the various consultations.

    The point is well made about the difference of various administrative boundaries, which was the subject of considerable internal debate and subsequent consultation in the early stages of development of the Plan. The following guidance may be of interest:

    You will see that at Clause 3.1 it states that “….There are no set rules in terms of how big or small a neighbourhood area can be and they can cross administrative boundaries.” Our lengthy and (we like to think) well informed discussions and conclusion reflects a pragmatic approach. Village residents are, of course, perfectly entitled to take issue with this, but that has not happened during our consultations held to date.

    In sum, we have tried our best to take the democratic horse to water…….

  7. Mike Ferris

    John has waxed lyrical in his usual exuberant and enthusiastic way and long may he continue his keen interest in all things communal in the village.
    To see a planning inspector “quailing” would indeed be a sight to behold however it should be noted that his comments were tempered by the term “hey presto” (definition, “as if by magic” )
    Not wishing to pour cold water on the work that has gone into producing the neighbourhood plan it would perhaps be remiss not to point out that many members of TVT are not enamoured by the apparent expenditure of almost £13,000 of public money to produce the plan, or indeed by the duplication of the many admirable functions previously undertaken by the TVT.
    At a recent TVT meeting the Chair of The Forum, in replying to a question regarding the eventual referendum to vote on the plan explained that a simple majority will carry the vote and that there is no designation within the rules of the referendum concerning the numbers required to vote in such referendum.
    In other words 3 people voting will be sufficient to produce the required simple majority result..
    This a ridiculous situation and it is obvious that a much larger media campaign is necessary to reach the affected electorate.
    I am also unclear who qualifies to vote in the referendum, Titchfield Parish has a population of approximately 8000 people, HCC Titchfield ward has a current electorate of 11000 forecast to rise in the relative short term to 13000 and continuing exponentially.
    The plan boundary neither complies with the actual parish boundary or the ward boundary so exactly who determines those qualified to vote before it is “cast in stone”

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